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The Doctrine of Forum Non Conveniens in Florida

Posted on: January 22, 2013

The doctrine of forum non conveniens authorizes a trial court to decline to exercise its jurisdiction, even though the court has venue, where it appears that the convenience of the parties and the court, and the interests of justice indicate that the action should be tried in another forum.” 

In Kinney Sys., Inc. v. Cont’l Ins. Co., 674 So. 2d 86, 91 (Fla. 1996), the Florida Supreme Court adopted the federal doctrine of forum non conveniens, setting forth a four-step analysis:

(1) As a prerequisite, the court must establish whether an adequate alternative forum exists which possess jurisdiction over the whole case.

(2) Next, the trial judge must consider all relevant factors of private interest, weighing in the balance a strong presumption against disturbing plaintiffs’ initial forum choice.

(3) If the trial judge finds this balance of private interests in equipoise or near equipoise, he must then determine whether or not factors of public interest tip the balance in favor of the trial in another forum.

(4) If he decides that the balance favors such a forum, the trial judge must finally ensure that plaintiffs can reinstate their suit in the alternative forum without undue inconvenience or prejudice.

In the recent case of ABA Capital Markets Corp. v. Provincial De Reaseguros C.A., 101 So. 3d 385 (Fla. 3d DCA 2012), a denial of a motion to dismiss based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens was affirmed on appeal.  Provincial De Reaseguros C.A., a Venezuelan reinsurance company, brought an action against ABA Capital Markets Corporation (“ABA”), a British Virgin Islands investment company alleging fraud, civil theft, conversion, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, and unjust enrichment after the investment company failed to return bonds allegedly held in Florida or transfer them to an alternate custodian.  The defendant, ABA filed a motion to dismiss claiming, inter alia, forum non conveniens.  The motion was denied by the trial court, and ABA appealed.  On appeal, the court considered each one of the above Kinney factors, finding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to dismiss.  Specifically, the appellate court found as follows:

(1) As to first Kinney factor: It was undisputed that Venezuela was an adequate alternative forum.

(2) As to the second Kinney factor: ABA argued that the private interests were in favor of the alternate forum because all communications and negotiations were between people outside Florida, the bonds were being held in New York and all records were in Spanish.  ABA further argued that it would be impractical to compel all witnesses to travel to Miami due to the costs involved. However, ABA’s arguments were not successful as the main witness resided in Miami; ABA, through Auvert, operated in Miami as custodian of the bonds; other than the plaintiff itself, no other witnesses were located in Venezuela; the Provincial witnesses located in Venezuela had already made several trips to Miami for the litigation, and agreed to continue doing so; ABA maintained its bank accounts in Miami and received all its statements in Miami; ABA also exchanged wire transfers with Provincial from ABA’s Miami bank account; all key documents had already been translated from Spanish to English.

(3) As to the third Kinney factor: Since the third factor is only considered if the balance of private interests is at or near equipoise, the court did not analyze same as it had already determined that this was not the case.

(4) As to the fourth Kinney factor: Since the fourth factor only comes into play where a trial court grants the motion to dismiss, it was not necessary for the court to address it here.

This is but one example of the application of the doctrine of forum non conveniens in Florida law.  The attorneys at Schecter Law are well-versed on the jurisdictional and procedural aspects of Florida litigation matters, and can assist you with all aspects of your Florida business litigation needs.